'On Any Sunday' director continues dad's legacy
When Travis Pastrana first met Dana Brown on the set of "On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter," he surprised the filmmaker by humming a few bars from Dominic Frontiere's iconic big-band jazz-funk soundtrack for the original documentary, directed by Brown's father, Bruce, in 1971. Then he proceeded to sing snippets from the film's quintessentially-70s title theme song from memory.
"I would say that my love for that film goes back as far as I can remember, to when I was three or four years old watching it with my dad on VHS, but the truth is it goes back even before that," says Pastrana, who wasn't born until twelve years after the film hit theaters but can't help but feel that it shaped his destiny in ways he's just beginning to understand.
"'On Any Sunday' was the reason my dad got his first motorcycle to begin with, long before I was even a thought, and that really shaped what my life would become," Pastrana says. "Before that movie I think for a lot of people motorcycle culture meant Hell's Angels and biker gangs. And then here was this Academy Award-nominated documentary showing all aspects of motorcycle racing and just emphasizing the fun of it. By the time I came along my dad was racing, my mom was racing, and it was just this big awesome family thing for us. Being around all that is all I've ever known."
Pastrana isn't the only one inspired by the original film. Robbie Maddison was already racing motocross in Australia, but when the film reached him, it pushed him to go farther on a bike.
"The first time I saw 'On Any Sunday' was when I was young and already racing motocross, and I just remember being really inspired," says Robbie Maddison. "Nowadays people are overloaded with stuff they can see on the Internet and wherever else, but back then, growing up in Australia, to see a film like that showing all these different ways you can have fun on a bike, it was really an event. For me it really cemented that motocross was all about freedom and love and passion for bikes. It was an introduction to this whole bigger world of what you could do."
Maddison's footage was filmed in secret around the Winter Olympics venues in Park City, Utah and will be seen for the first time when the movie premiers this fall.
"On one hand it's been eating me up to sit on it for so long, with people asking me what I've been up to and not being able to give an honest answer, but it's also been cool to keep my scenes under wraps, " Maddison says, declining to share details about what the film has in store. "I like the suspense."
The original film, featuring Steve McQueen, Malcolm Smith and Mert Lawwill, was directed by Bruce Brown as the follow-up to his 1966 surf film classic "The Endless Summer." The first film introduced the journey-is-the-destination thrills of a global chase for the perfect wave to the masses, while the latter inspired a generation of riders to take up motocross racing in all its many forms. Its goofball opening credits scene also helped popularize BMX racing, ape-hanger handlebars and all.
"You can look back on it and laugh at the light-hearted, corny narration, but that's part of what made it so special," Pastrana says. "It was just so fun and made it all feel so accessible. So many people watched that film and thought, 'that's for me.'"
Brown is aiming for a similar effect with his follow-up, more than 42 years after the fact.
"I'm very proud of Dad, and I'm impressed that his films still feel so vibrant: he really captured the spirit of surfing and then motocross in a very timeless way," Brown said to XGames.com. "It's a really lovely thing that never quits surprising."
Brown first got into making films with his father, and the two worked together on "The Endless Summer II" in 1994 to mark the first film's 30th anniversary. In 2000 Dana directed a making-of documentary, "The Endless Summer Revisited," then set out to make a surf documentary of his own in 2003 with "Step Into Liquid." Next he was drawn back into the world of motocross: in 2005 he directed "Dust to Glory," a documentary from the Baja 1000 off-road race featuring McQueen's son Chad, in yet another nod to his father's work.
"I went and did my own thing, made my own mark with a couple of films, but 'On Any Sunday' was always my favorite of dad's films and I always wanted to come back to it," Brown says. "I asked him what he thought about filming 'The Next Chapter' and he thought it was time. Hopefully it will stand on it's own and make dad proud."
The new film, produced by Red Bull Media House and due out this fall, will show just how far the sport has progressed over the last four decades.
"The athletes have always been amazing, but the equipment and the talent have evolved exponentially in the intervening years and there's now a lot more money on the line, which draws a lot of serious competitors in a lot of different motocross disciplines," Brown says. "What these riders can do is jaw-dropping. And the cameras and filmmaking equipment have advanced just as fast, so you can capture so much more. Dad was one of the first to use a helmet-cam back in the day, and now we can put little HD point-of-view cameras everywhere."
Pastrana's Nitro Circus Live show is featured, and he's also in the film riding with his longtime hero Doug Henry, an AMA Motocross Hall of Famer and X Games 2005 SuperMoto gold medalist who was paralyzed from the waist down in a 2007 crash and has since won one silver and two bronze medals as an X Games Adaptive SnoCross racer.
Other athletes in the film include Pike's Peak International Hill Climb champion Carlin Dunne, four-time women's motocross champion and two-time Games gold medalist Ashley Fiolek, daredevil jumper and X Games medalist Robbie "Maddo" Maddison, MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez, two-time U.S. National Champion speedway racer Brad Oxley, MotoGP competitor Dani Pedrosa, AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Kenny Roberts, AMA 250GP champion Roland Sands, and AMA Supercross and Motocross superstar James Stewart.
"In this industry, where videos go online and go viral overnight, to save something big for a film like this is almost impossible," Pastrana says. "But this film has so much unseen footage -- including a mind-blowing Robbie Maddison jump -- that it's going to be a really special event."
Brown says it was equally important to keep some of the motocross-is-for-everybody spirit of the original, and "The Next Chapter" also goes inside a custom shop, behind the scenes at California's Costa Mesa Speedway, and to a Riders for Health benefit event in support of U.S. military veterans and their families.
"These people bonded by a passion for motorcycles and the joy that comes out of that passion, that's a timeless deal," Brown says. "I like that yin and yang: on one hand things have obviously changed and evolved, but on the other hand the heart still beats the same. I think we captured that in the movie, and that was our intention."